* A guest post by John Paul Manfredi
“If I am shaved, my strength will leave me, and I shall grow weaker and be like everyone else” (Judges 16:17)
“The beard signifies the courageous … the earnest, the active, the vigorous. So that when we describe such, we say, he is a bearded man.” -St. Augustine
“[God] adorned man like the lions, with a beard, and endowed him as an attribute of manhood … a sign of strength and rule.” -Clement of Alexandria
The beard has long been a sign of manliness and strength. Throughout the centuries, men of great wisdom (see Socrates and Plato) have rocked the facial fur. But, the beard is also a symbol of great holiness. Many a saint has donned the scruff throughout the history of the Church. Here are the top eleven, ranked for your viewing pleasure. Not ten…this list goes to eleven.
11 . St. Nicholas
Yes, THAT St. Nicholas. Long before little kids were pulling on the beards of Santa Claus impostors in shopping malls, the real St. Nick was running the beard game with these luscious white locks. This beard alone may have brought about the downfall of Arianism. Merry Christmas indeed.
10. St. (Padre) Pio
Franciscan priest? Jedi Master? Both? Regardless, there is something to be said for the simplicity and power in his beard…plus he could read souls and bi-locate. May the force be with you… And with your spirit.
9. Pope St. John XXIII
I’ve heard that this picture of John XXIII as a young priest was circulated amongst the cardinals at the conclave that elected him Pope. So I’ve heard.
8. St. Augustine
Besides being one of the greatest minds in history, St. Augustine rocked a pretty ferocious beard. I believe upon proper interpretation of his City of God, all men (and women?) worthy of the City of God have beards…just sayin’.
7. St. Peter
Clean…tight…curly. No wonder they called him “the Rock”. Who needs keys when you can pick a lock with your beard?
6. St. Benedict
Patron saint of EUROPE who wrote the Holy Rule which serves as a model of monastic life. His medal bears a prayer of exorcism, which he probably didn’t need. The beard alone is enough to drive out demons.
5. St. Gregory Nazianzen
When not combatting the Arian heresy, this fourth century bishop was, clearly, spending the bulk of his spare time sculpting those beautiful man-locks. How he managed to chisel his beard into a perfect rectangle is just another of the great mysteries of the faith. You could slice ice cubes with that beard…but would you want to? Yes. Yes you would.
4. St. Maximus the Confessor
This seventh-century theologian gave up a high profile life in politics to commit his life to prayer as a monk… and grow this vicious beard by the foot.
3. St. Anthony of Egypt
Truly a pioneer. Not only was St. Anthony the founder of Christian monasticism, but to my knowledge (which, on the topic of beards, is extensive) he was the first to don the “split screen.” Truly an innovator.
2. St. Maximilian Kolbe
I don’t know what it is about St. Maximilian’s beard that is so powerful. It’s untamed, unkempt, free. Perhaps, it’s knowing that this man gave his life for a complete stranger in a Nazi death camp. Without question though, this beard means business. St. Maximilian Kolbe, unofficial patron saint of bearded men, pray for us!!
1. Jesus (Shroud of Turin)
“Ecce homo!” Behold the Man…and behold the beard! Is it any surprise that the Perfect Man would also don the perfect beard? Let’s be honest, if the final Jeopardy answer was “he’s who you think of when you think ‘epic beard'”, the question is, without a doubt, Shroud of Turin Jesus.
*John Paul Manfredi is a husband, father, and theology teacher living in the Bay Area where he currently teaches theology at Marin Catholic College Preparatory. John Paul has a BA from Notre Dame de Namur University and an MA in theology from the University of Notre Dame. When not spending time with his family or teaching, John Paul enjoys reading CS Lewis and Shusaku Endo, Italian food, beer, and coiffing his beard.